Monday, September 07, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is the sequel to the young adult novel, Hunger Games, which I read and really enjoyed. I approached this sequel with both dread and delight, hoping it would be as compelling to read as the first novel, knowing how often sequels do not live up to the first. It is difficult to write about a sequel without giving away details from the first novel and I will avoid doing so to the best of my ability. Collins takes her potentially derivative idea from the first novel and continues to develop it in new and exciting ways. She draws on the traditional heroic cycle as described by Joseph Campbell where a hero receives “the call” and then follows a path to which they never aspired, facing challenges and conquering their own fears with the help of others. In the first novel, Katniss is the hero who receives the call and the characters that surround her are often full of surprising depth, something that is often not the case with science-fiction or fantasy novels because the writer forgets to fully flesh out the supporting characters. Collins never overlooks the potential of her characters, whether major or minor. Those same characters who have survived the first novel and reappear in the second continue to surprise as they all grow in new ways. The dystopian world Collins has created, including the dynamic of the Hunger Games themselves, is fascinating and, I am so happy to say, as compelling as they are in the first book. Catching Fire adds a more political layer to the story, giving the readers a new way of immersing themselves into the lives and lifestyles of the characters. I will say that, while the first novel ends at a logical point, this sequel ends very abruptly. Too abruptly, in my opinion. Whereas the first novel clearly had more story to tell, a reader could easily set the series aside if they preferred not to go on, not unlike the Harry Potter books which each end with the school year but with an obvious potential for more story. I wish Collins had chosen to conclude this novel with the same grace and confidence as she did the former. Still, as with the first, I found myself getting teary eyed occasionally, shivering at some of the more emotional moments in the novel, and eager to read the next book. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait for it to be released and waiting for the next and final volume of the trilogy will be torturous.

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